A few years ago, sick of all the “fake news,” I deleted my Facebook account, but my addiction to corporate social media far from over. No sooner did I say goodbye to Mark Zuckerberg’s data mining Scylla than I stumbled into the into Jack Dorsey’s “microblogging” Charybdis. It’s easy to see why. Corporate social media is a Faustian bargain. They get your personal information. You get to post whatever bullshit is on your mind and get instant feedback. However tedious you are, if you Tweet enough, someone is bound to respond. At some point, however, Twitter is even worse than you admitted when you signed your name on the dotted line and surrendered your immortal soul. Twitter not only prevents you from making genuine social connections. It prevents you from having your own thoughts. My solution was to get myself banned. The problem was I couldn’t. As many self-important, middle-brow political activists, fake leftists, Maga Chuds, and Hillary Clinton cultists as I managed to piss off, the most I could achieve was to get myself blocked. I simply wasn’t important enough for anybody to take much notice of. For the love of God, I even declared myself a “Russian Bot.” Nothing worked. Then last month, in cooperation with Donald Trump, the man they made President, Twitter started rolling out a new product.
Regime change in Venezuela.
In 2019, being against restoring Venezuela’s old, European, colonial elite, feels a bit like being against invading Iraq did in 2003. You know you’re right. You know that everybody will eventually realize that sanctioning and destabilizing Venezuela in preparation for the ongoing coup was a bad idea, but you also realize that nobody who cares about their professional reputation or political career will admit it. Until Trump’s appointment of Juan Guaidó as President of Venezuela and the ancient war criminal Eliot Abrams as American viceroy inevitably goes sour, the only people who are going to admit reality are the dirty hippies and malcontents, people who have nothing to lose or simply don’t care. That includes Tulsi Gabbard, who has no chance of winning the Democratic nomination. It does not include Bernie Sanders, who does. Indeed, when Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” from Vermont all find themselves in bipartisan, cross ideological agreement that the President of Venezuela needs to be chosen, not by the Venezuelan people, but by the President of the United States, you know it’s only a matter of time before Nicolas Maduro either steps down or gets ousted by US Marines, and the free market paradise of neoliberal Venezuela replaces the Bolivarian republic.
A feminist Tweeter, whose name escapes me, once compared attracting the attention of the far right on social media to having the eye of Sauron suddenly trained on you when you uncover the ring of doom. It’s not a perfect comparison. To be honest, I wasn’t that intimidated by the horde of “Venezuelan” preppy orcs who staged a digital Brooks Brothers Riot in my mentions yesterday. After all, these people need Donald Trump to protect them from their own slaves. But there was something a little disconcerting about watching “big data” in the form of an astroturfing campaign descend upon my up until that point obscure social media account. No sooner did I make a comment that it seemed odd for so many “Venezuelans” not only to be rich, white and bilingual, but to have a solid internet connection and the time to spend all day on social media when their country was supposedly in the grip of a “humanitarian crisis” then the bat signal went out. They came at me all at once. One, ten, one hundred, one thousand, it was impossible to mute them all. In my five years on Twitter I had never seen so many requests for DMs asking me if I knew what it was like to have a gun pointed at my head or if I had taken care to “lock down all my platforms.” Not as disturbing as the threats or the verbal abuse, but probably more numerous were all the accusations that I was “racist” (against people whiter than I am?) against “Venezuelans” because I had assumed they wouldn’t have internet connections or “better educations than you Gringo.” These “Venezuelans” seemed to be suffering more from a crisis of status anxiety than a grave “humanitarian” crisis requiring food conveys and US Marines. Most of them probably need a hug more than they need a fascist coup.
I had in fact hoped to expose the astroturfing campaign behind the “listen to Venezuelans” – listen to “Venezuelans” who support Trump – talking point we had been hearing on Twitter for weeks. In the end, I was successful. The “Venezuelans” I was told to listen to were to a man or woman right wing anti-communist, Trump loving bullies who will probably stage bloody reprisals against Maduro’s supporters should they get back into power. But in the end, it didn’t matter. Very few of my 1500 followers saw them. I was banned less than an hour after it all started, too quickly even to take screenshots. Was it mass reporting? Was it an algorithm written by whoever thought up the “listen to Venezuelans” PR campaign? Was it Twitter’s management? After all, Twitter more than any other media platform was responsible for Trump’s rise and it’s not out of the question they’d be actively behind his first real attempt at regime change. Or was it simply the fact that I had previously been given a time out – for baiting the Syria regime change cult – and I had finally worn out my welcome. I suppose I’ll never know. But I do know this. The people who thought they were punishing me by getting me banned actually did me a favor. Twitter had become a bad addiction. All they really managed to accomplish was to take away my crack pipe.